O’Vert Dose: Metaverse, ally or foe against global warming?

You’ve seen the word “Metaverse” at least three times in your feed this week. This concept will redefine the way we interact with each other, the way we work, and the way we live. But although it is useful for economic sustainability, can it be our ally or our enemy when it comes to environmental sustainability?

What is the Metaverse?

The Metaverse is a collective virtual open space, created through the convergence of virtually augmented physical and digital reality. It is a 3D version of the Internet that offers enhanced immersive experiences and is expected to be a $800 billion market by 2024. Accessing this world through a virtual reality headset, and users will navigate using their eye movements, feedback controllers or voice commands. The headset immerses the user, and creates the physical feeling of actually being there.

What is the impact on the environment?

Metaverse is a virtual world where users can share experiences and interact in real time in simulated scenarios, it is described by Microsoft as “a new version of the Internet.” The volume, variety and speed of data generated by users will require AI applications for its analysis. According to Data Quest, Metaverse is likely to lead to more greenhouse gas emissions, and since virtual reality technology and data centers use AI and cloud services, it will undoubtedly require a relatively large amount of energy. .

Metaverse will also likely rely on virtual reality (VR) technologies, which already use AI technologies, such as deep neural networks for accurate hand tracking and deep learning for eye tracking. Data center processing, especially for AI workloads, comes at a huge environmental cost.

Training an AI model can emit up to 626,000 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent, which is nearly five times the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by a single car over its lifetime. Cloud gaming, which is required for VR, may also increase carbon emissions in 2030. In addition, Metaverse is also likely to require very high resolution imagery, which will increase energy consumption.

In addition, the continuous development of VR will encourage people to buy new technologies, which means an increase in electronic waste, which pollutes our lands, groundwater and landfills.

Environment and NFT

NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), which use Blockchain technologies to enable the exchange of unique digital items and track their ownership, are an important part of the Metaverse. While replacing physical assets with virtual ones can be beneficial, storing these virtual assets in the form of NFTs can have side effects. According to Digiconomist estimates, one Etherum transaction emits about 110 kg of CO2, which is equivalent to 42,734 VISA transactions or 18,253 hours of Youtube viewing.

Every time an NFT is created or traded, another block must be built on the blockchain. It’s not hard to imagine the number of broadcasts if creator studios move to the Metaverse.

Metaverse can reduce emissions from other industries

It is possible that the Metaverse can offset the emissions of other areas of life. For example, by organizing concerts, talk shows or festivals in virtual spaces, the environmental costs associated with travel can be reduced. In addition, in the Metaverse office space, commuting emissions can also be reduced. This will reduce net emissions and therefore the overall environmental impact of the Metaverse.

So we can imagine ourselves in a world where entrepreneurs can work in the Metaverse instead of going to the office every day and where air travel will almost completely disappear.

Potential: Web 3.0 technology

As far as lasting results, Web 3.0 technology has exciting potential according to its enthusiasts for various reasons. First of all, it is decentralized, it eliminates intermediaries, manual mediation and arbitration, thus avoiding the centralization of power and reducing costs. Second, it enables multidimensional inclusion, strengthening reliability and traceability, and ensuring the highest level of management. And finally, it provides safe and secure transactions and smart contracts, in addition to reducing the risks of corruption and manipulation.

It is not yet known to what extent the Metaverse will invade our lives. Undeniably comes to us as a double-edged sword, but aside from the environmental impact, whether the Metaverse will threaten social sustainability is also controversial. Will this lead to a more inclusive and egalitarian universe, or will it exacerbate inequality?

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